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Is your goal in 2023 to improve your physical and mental health?

Three local health professionals offer tips, advice and encouragement

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Lizette Sunde, Karla Solum and Melanie Fierstine work together to improve the physical and mental well being of athletes at EHP Performance in Moorhead.
Photo courtesy of EHP Performance / Special to OTMOM
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The start of a new year often means making resolutions or setting intentions for the year, and if improving your health is one of them, you’re not alone.

Nearly 40% of people make goals at the start of the year, according to a 2023 Forbes article , and the majority of the goals involve improving physical health. However, only 9% of those who make resolutions keep up with their aspirations. When it comes to making and keeping goals regarding health, many people do not consider the mental health benefits that accompany improved physical health.

That’s what three medical experts at EHP Performance in Moorhead aim to combine in the medical fitness facility. They help athletes of all kinds approach a healthy lifestyle through exercise, mental wellness and improved nutrition.

Karla Wolford, Dr. Lizette Sunde and Melanie Fierstine work together to help athletes become better versions of themselves without the use of medications or restrictive diets.

“We work with people who want more for their life; they want to find out what makes them feel alive,” said Wolford, who is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach. She founded EHP Performance because she saw how mental health plummeted during COVID, and she wanted to create a gym where fitness could be used to improve mental wellbeing. “I give people an exercise prescription,” she said.

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The idea of an exercise prescription is important because people take their daily activity more seriously when they consider it part of their overall treatment plan, Wolford said. Plus, everyone who comes to EHP is an athlete, plain and simple.

“An athlete is anyone doing exercise on purpose,” Wolford said. “It can be a grandma who comes in to improve herself so she can move more easily with her grandkids.”

The “why” of wanting to improve physical and mental wellbeing is crucial to sticking to goals. Knowing the reason behind achieving your goal increases your motivation and discipline, especially if you also develop habits and a framework for working toward the goal. “Everyone is different, so we listen to people and what they’re looking for to create a plan that works for them and their lives,” Wolford said.

Fierstine and Sunde echoed those thoughts.

Fierstine, a licensed independent social worker with two decades of experience who now teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead, helps people eliminate the barriers to living a healthy lifestyle by helping them identify the support they need and reduce the stigma on mental health.

“Exercise is such a great tool for managing or treating anxiety and depression because it releases serotonin, dopamine and endorphins,” she explained. “Connecting your mind and body is a powerful form of meditation and helps you feel stronger and your mind clearer.”

Sunde is a physical therapist and board certified orthopedic specialist as well as a certified strength and conditioning coach, and she helps people work back safely into fitness in a way that helps their body heal and strengthen. When she’s working with an athlete, she also asks them about other areas of their life that affect their physical wellbeing, such as sleep habits, nutrition and mental wellbeing so she can refer them to a practitioner.

Not only are all three women health care professionals, they’re also moms in various stages of their parenting journeys, so they understand the distinct challenges mothers face when it comes to their physical and mental health.

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“If you’re a mom, you have to take care of yourself first,” Sunde said. “Reach out and invite others, or take a leap of faith and try something new. Do what fits into your schedule and makes you feel good.”

Sticking to an important goal like improving your physical wellbeing might mean assessing your priorities to see if you’re giving time and attention to something you don’t like, Wolford suggested.

Fierstine also pointed out that wellness is important for everyone, so if involving your family in your goal will help you accomplish it, go for it. “At EHP, we have every age group present and even families,” she explained.

No matter what your goal is for 2023, all three women said doing something is better than doing nothing.

“It’s not easy to get started,” Fierstine acknowledged. “But if you can get up and move your body in any way you can, that’s a good thing…if you set a goal and then miss a day or something, don’t quit. Just adjust the plan and don’t be so hard on yourself.”

For more information on EHP Performance or to reach out to any one of these three medical professionals, visit ehpperformance.com/about-us/ .

Danielle Teigen has a bachelor's degree in journalism and management communication as well as a master's degree in mass communication from North Dakota State University. She has worked for Forum Communications since May 2015, first as a digital content manager before becoming the Life section editor and then deputy editor. She recently moved back to her hometown in South Dakota, where she works remotely for Forum Communications as managing editor of On the Minds of Moms.
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